Tip #930: Make Experiential Learning Feel Safe for Introverts

“Everyone should have an opportunity to learn in a positive environment, to enjoy the learning process, and feel comfortable and content with it.”  Barry Saide

In a recent article in Entrepreneur, Angela Cox identifies a number of problems with many gamification-style learning experiences. She notes that they can marginalize and make introverts feel unsafe and uncomfortable when they use activities that require immediate responses, present problems that are intentionally unsolvable, promote openness and gregariousness as the key to trustworthiness, and operate on the premise that collaboration and teamwork are always good.

I think that Dr. Cox raises important considerations that need to be factored into the design and facilitation of experiential learning activities. Participants should always be given permission and an opportunity to choose how they will participate in an activity. And we have to minimize the number of activities that favor immediate responses.

When we use a Jeopardy game to reinforce learning, we can keep in mind that requiring quick responses will marginalize the introverts. Instead, we can give a few minutes for each table group to discuss the question before we open it up for response. That allows the introverts who need time to consider and reflect to actively participate.

When we use role-plays for participants to apply new interpersonal skills in simulated situations, we can give the participants the opportunity to choose whether to act in a role or to observe and report. This makes the experience feel safe for the introverts.

We can also use games that depend on the strengths of different personality types. The Murder One game involves five “detectives” who need to solve a murder when each has different clues. It is rare for a group to be successful if they don’t have an introverted detail-oriented person working with them.

I can’t speak to activities that present problems that can’t be solved- I don’t understand their value, either.

With regard to collaboration, when we give participants a questionnaire to complete, we can offer them a choice. They can work independently or with their table group.

To avoid collaboration failures, we can make sure that the facilitator provides clear instructions, ensures that a group leader and/or scribe is selected, and continually makes rounds to listen that no one is dominating the conversation, and all have an opportunity to contribute.

My point is that experiential learning is not, nor should it be, always designed in favor of extraverts. A competent and conscientious designer and facilitator can ensure that most learning activities feel safe for introverts. Contact Deborah to learn how to do this.

May your learning be sweet- and safe.


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